“I’m as puzzled as the Oyster.”
Here we are at the last episode of the series and the end of these regularly scheduled recaps. I’m full of conflicting emotions because I don’t want this to end, yet I’m glad the series went out with this bizarre and fun episode. “The Frodis Caper” a.k.a. “Mijacogeo” aired for the first time on March 25, 1968 and was directed by Micky Dolenz, written by Micky along with Jon C. Andersen on the story, and Dave Evans on the teleplay. Evans wrote eight other Monkees episodes, mostly in the first season. Andersen penned four that were filmed in season two. The subtitle, “Mijacogeo,” was made up from the first couple of letters of each of the Dolenz family member names, “mi” for Micky, “ja” for his mother Janelle, “co” for his sister Coco, and “geo” for his father George. It was also the name of the Dolenz family childhood dog.
The episode begins with a montage edit of tight shots on the various parts of a Rube Goldberg-style alarm clock, activated by the heat of the rising sun. This culminates in a record player needle dropping onto “Good Morning Good Morning” by The Beatles. It was unheard of to have songs by popular recording artists on television shows in the United States at the time, let alone a band as big as The Beatles. Of course we know the Monkees had hung out a bit with The Beatles the previous summer and were present for some of the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band sessions.
Mike, Davy, and Micky wake up and notice that Peter is not in his bed. Flash-cuts to the empty bed as the others wander around calling for him. They agree to search the premises and meet back there at 0800 hours (That would be a long time to search because their individual alarm clocks read 6 a.m.) There’s a double edit from two different angles as Mike says “Okay guys, let’s go” and Micky and Davy move to leave but then rewind back to Mike. The editing freezes the action and there are screen captions that read FREEZE FRAME.
In less than one minute of episode, there were already tons of editing tricks drawing attention to the fact that it’s a filmed television show. These flash-cuts, captions, close-up shots, unusual angles, montage edits, and fourth-wall-breaking moments permeate the entire episode. Of course some of these techniques were used by the directors/editors throughout the series; Dolenz threw them in all in at once. He does get credit for one fully original touch. In the DVD commentary for this episode, he mentioned that he chose to use a two-camera setup to shoot “Frodis Caper” and points out that this was never done before on sitcoms. On the commentary, Dolenz indicated that it made the shooting go faster and gave the episode its unique look. Even after this, a two-camera setup wasn’t done very often, if at all, and I can’t think of an example offhand. In other words, after all these years, this episode still really stands out.
My husband, a casual Monkees fan at best, loves this episode and even showed it to his film-making partner to illustrate both the directing/editing techniques as well as the surreal humor. Dolenz made directing into a secondary career. Starting in the late ’70s and early ’80s, he directed for television in the U.K., notably a couple of comedy sci-fi kids shows, Metal Mickey, and Luna. He also directed episodes of Boy Meets World, Television Parts (Michael Nesmith’s Elephant Parts spin-off TV movie), and The Box, a short film starring Terry Jones and Michael Palin of Monty Python.
The Monkees look around downstairs for Peter, ignoring the fact that he is sitting there in plain sight. While Mike and Micky screw around, performing a “Lost and Found” sketch with flash-cuts to Peter’s opening title picture, Davy finds a weird “statue.” Mike and Micky quickly figure out that the statue is indeed Peter. He’s been hypnotized by the television, which is showing a crudely animated eye making a pulsing sound. The other three somehow manage to shut off the television before it hypnotizes all of them.
After the opening titles, the Monkees (without Peter) scramble around the neighborhood to see who else was affected. Mike and Micky find the whole Parker family mesmerized by the television screen. This appears to be commentary from Micky Dolenz and the other writers regarding television and its ability to brainwash the masses. (And once again, the Monkees were way ahead of their time. This is frighteningly relevant today.) There’s a great comment from Micky Dolenz in this article, a list of “10 Interesting Facts about The Monkees TV Show.” “Most TV is like dope,” Micky Dolenz told Seventeen magazine in 1967, “It’s just there to put people into a state where they’ll believe anything anybody says— like the announcer of the six o’clock news. Our show gives you the idea of being an individual. That’s what we represent to the kids: an effort to be an individual, an attempt to find your own personality.” [“I’ve always found it fascinating that you can identify the problem while being part of the problem.” – Editor’s Note] Mocking the media/television and its effects on society and culture was an overall theme of The Monkees, such as with “Captain Crocodile,” “Monkees a la Monde,” and “I Was a 99-lb Weakling” (to name a few).
Davy, Mike, and Micky rush over to the television station KXIW (the same television station call letters from “Some Like it Lukewarm”), where they find the stagehand hypnotized by the television eye. Micky wonders, “What kind of a warped, maniacal mind could be plotting such a conspiracy?” Cut to Rip Taylor as Wizard Glick, shrieking, “It’s working!” and laughing evilly. The Monkees apparently saw that scene because they cut back to Micky who tells the audience, “Oh, that kind of a warped mind.”
Our heroes decide that this is a job for Monkeemen (cue the Monkeemen theme). Monkees run to a phone booth to change into their superhero costumes. Bad luck, there’s a sign in the phone booth informing them that Federal law prohibits the use of phone booths for “the purpose of changing into or out of secret identities.” They see a telephone company truck and there’s a hilarious moment of Monkee-panic, “it’s the heat!” They squeeze out of the phone booth, Three Stooges-style. This episode has a nice combo of surreal and physical humor.
Next is a montage edit of Glick revealing his “maniacally warped plan” to take over the world with the Frodis. Between close shots of his mouth, there are a series of weird flash-cuts as he talks, such as: “…that’ll release the incredible power of the Frodis (shot of Frodis eye), “…with the aid of my villainous henchmen” (shot of the four henchmen who each have a tiny handheld television), “…I can control the minds of millions!” (shot of Hitler. Sieg heil!).
A henchman alerts Glick to the fact that the “Monkeemen Monitor” is activated for the first time in five years. This gives us an indication of how long Monkeemen have been together, and that this is not Glick’s first time dealing with them. In response, Glick orders the release of the two-headed org.
The Org lumbers after the three panicking Monkees. They look for help from the Monkeeman Manual, which Micky pulls (possibly a copy of the script) out of his pants. First we’ve heard of this manual. They follow the ridiculous instructions: “To dispose of a two-headed org, jump up and down three times, roll a head of cabbage, and giggle.” But where were they keeping the cabbage? When the org falls, the Monkees sing “Ding dong, the wicked org is dead!” Wizard Glick is so very much a parody of the “Wicked Witch of the West” character from The Wizard of Oz. Rip Taylor looked like he was having a fabulous time. (Could ya die?)
This episode in particular and The Monkees series in general, frequently had a Sid and Marty Krofft psychedelic kids’ show vibe. The Krofft Supershow, Space Nuts, and Dr. Shrinker are a few of the ones I’m old enough to remember. The Aquabats! Super Show, which I watched with my daughter from 2012-2014, was clearly inspired by Krofft shows and The Monkees.
Next, Glick sends out the TV repairmen. Both the Org and the repairman are released by comically-labeled levers. They rush out with their televisions displaying the eye and try to catch the Monkees off guard. Hilariously, one of the repairmen hypnotizes himself when he checks to make sure his TV is working. It seems Glick would’ve failed again, except that Mike suddenly says “You know what? It’s seven thirty, six thirty central time. It’s time for The Monkees. I wonder if anybody around here’s got a television set.” Fourth-wall-breaking and it moves the plot along. Nice. Repairmen come from everywhere to oblige him.
The Monkees are tied to chairs, but they are not hypnotized, which is inconsistent. Micky decides to use mental telepathy to contact Peter to come get them out. Using a chant he got, not as Mike guesses, “while studying transcendental meditation under an Indian mystic,” but rather that came free with a cereal box top. Hilarious double joke at the expense of their sponsor, Kelloggs, and the Beatles’ Maharishi Mahesh Yogi days. Peter hears the message and leaves the house to go help his friends. (Nam-myoho-renge-kyo apparently means “devotion to the mystic law of the Lotus Sutra.”)
Peter wanders through the town and toward the television station while Glick watches him on his monitor. (The monitor is sort of a witch’s crystal ball.) [Another allusion to The Wizard of Oz – Editor’s Note] He stops to chat with Valerie Kairys, who’s been wandering around the station, also not under the Frodis’ spell it seems. Ultimately, he ends up right in Glick’s clutches when he knocks politely on the station door and Glick is there to greet him.
Next scene, a very miffed Peter is tied up with the other Monkees. Peter notes that there’s a telephone and he hops over to it and calls the police, explaining to the cops that they’re being held captive at Mammoth studios by “these weird people that want to take over the world.” Somehow Mike’s hands have gotten free, so all four Monkees escape and turn the tables on Glick and his men. The cops show up, one played by Bob Michaels, who was also the cop that Micky “directed” in character in “The Picture Frame.” Seeing Glick and his henchmen tied up and the Monkees free, they come to the conclusion that the Monkees are the villains.
They’re not under arrest for long, as the cops suddenly have an urge to watch Dragnet and are easily tricked into looking at a television in the shop window. Unfortunately it also gets Peter. So he’s going to spend much of this episode out of his mind, as he did in the previous episode, “Monkees Blow Their Minds.” They carry Peter back into the TV studio but the ease of their escape ends up being a trick by Glick: now they are in chains and guarded by some guy called Otto.
Mike and Micky con Otto into giving them the keys to the chains by challenging him to a card game. Otto turns out to be a card shark, pulls cards out of his mouth, and shuffles like a pro. They realize they can’t play a real game with him, so Mike and Micky both make up a game on the spot, “Creebage.” (I guess they can read each other’s minds.) They bluff through the rules, declare that they won, and stand up and take the keys. Otto protests “But I have a Creebage.” This scene is reminiscent of the Star Trek episode “A Piece of the Action” when Kirk made up a card game called “Fizzbin” to facilitate escape from gangster-imitating aliens. [“A Piece of the Action” premiered on NBC January 12, 1968 – Editor’s Note]
Creebage or not, the Monkees unlock themselves and carry Peter off to somewhere else in the television studio. Frustrated with carrying him, they hang him on a coat rack. A Hilarious screen caption points out that the coat rack is a “Prop.” Poor Peter is a prop himself at this point. The Monkees search in vain for The Frodis room, until Nyles (yeah, he’s still wandering around) comes out and hangs up a sign that identifies the right door (“Yeah, Frodis room”). According to the Imdb, “Frodis” was the Monkees’ code word for marijuana, and they would smoke it in a lounge built for them off the soundstage where the series was filmed (called the “Frodis Room”).
Mike, Micky, and Davy rush into the Frodis room and find a ridiculous plant with a football eye socket with the drawing of the hypnotic eye pasted over it. Frodis pleads with them that he’s being used by Glick, who kidnapped him when his spaceship crashed. He asks them for help. The boys are “moved” by the Frodis’ story and start crying. Micky gets off the hilarious line, “I can’t stand to see a grown bush cry!” They pick up the Frodis to carry him back to his ship, but before they get far, Glick and his men block them.
The onscreen caption announces, “Typical Monkees Romp.” This one is a spacy, slow-motion run through the backlot to the song “Zor and Zam” (Bill Chadwick/John Chadwick). The lyrics seem to be a mythological protest song. It’s a weird choice tempo-wise for a chase scene. There are lots of slow-motion shots, low angles, and odd close-ups, not to mention a random shot of show producer Bert Schneider lying on a stretcher.
The Monkees (carrying Peter and the Frodis) somehow reach the flying saucer before Glick gets there. As the song ends, the Frodis pops his head out and blows smoke all over the bad guys. Glick is utterly stoned: “I don’t want to fight anymore. I just want to lay down in the grass and be cool.” Frodis laughs in his demented, squeaky little voice. (Micky Dolenz’ own voice) This reminds me of Mel Brooks’ History of the World Part I (1981) when Gregory Hines blows the giant joint onto the Roman soldiers who are pursuing them. Since it’s a film, they didn’t have to be as subtle as “Frodis Caper” but there is a similarity.
The last segment, and the last scene ever on The Monkees, is Micky’s choice of musical guest, following the precedent set up with Davy/Charlie Smalls and Mike/Frank Zappa. Peter never got to bring his choice of guest on (“Monkees Mind Their Manor” would have been a good spot) but stated he would have wanted to bring on Janis Joplin. Micky introduces Tim Buckley (1947-1975) who sings “Song to the Siren.”
Buckley began his career in folk rock in the mid-1960s but experimented with other music styles, such as jazz and funk. The song he performs here, “Song to the Siren” (Tim Buckley/Larry Becket) was not on an album until Starsailor (1970). A better known version was a 1983 cover by the band This Mortal Coil, which made the UK top 100 and was used in the films Lost Highway and The Lovely Bones (and in a random perfume commercial I recall from the early 2000s). This beautiful song has been covered by many other famous musicians, including Robert Plant, Bryan Ferry, and Pat Boone. Read more about it here.
Sadly, Buckley died in 1975 from a heroin overdose. His estranged son, Jeff Buckley (1966-1997) was also a singer/songwriter. His only studio album, Grace, was a critical, though not commercial, success and Rolling Stone ranks it 303 among the “Greatest 500 Albums of All Time.” Like his father, Jeff Buckley also died young (drowning accident).
This episode didn’t take my breath away for the wittiest dialogue or unusual plot, nor is it one that I have a lot of personal attachment to, but it is still one of best and most memorable. I’m so glad The Monkees went out on a high note. It seems appropriate that this was the perfect way for The Monkees to end: a paranoid, Sci-Fi parody about an evil entity pacifying the world through television. The Monkees were self-aware and never afraid to mock the system that made them or to make fun of themselves. Micky Dolenz and crew took the surreal humor, present in many episodes, up a level, making “Frodis Caper” one-of-a kind. I wonder what would have happened if the four Monkees had spent less of their energy on taking over the music and instead put their creativity into the episodes as Micky did in this instance; they might have found an unexpected way to make a statement.
As it stands, I’m glad the show ended when it did. It’s a drag when shows keep going long after they’re any good, they “jump the shark” etc. The Monkees was already showing signs of wear and tear, which could have been a sophomore slump that might have been corrected by hiring fresh writers. We’ll never know. Fifty-eight episodes are what we got, and I enjoyed the majority of them. As Micky said the show was about individuality, and to me it’s also about rebelling against authority, being young, about going beyond what you think is possible, about music, humor, and friendship. I thank The Monkees, not just the four band members themselves, but everyone who worked on the show and the music. You’ve given me a lifetime of fun, laughs and inspiration.
Thanks to everyone for reading and sharing! I’ll be back in the summer with another post listing my favorite moments of the series and again in the fall with a post about Head. In the meantime, I’ll see you in The Monkees Facebook groups.
by Bronwyn Knox
Every couple of weeks, “Monkees vs. Macheen” examined the crazy, spirited, Ben Franks-type world of the Pre-Fab Four: David Jones, Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith, and Peter Tork alias The Monkees.